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Manned Chinese shuttle successfully docks with orbiting space station

June 18, 2012

China successfully launched three astronauts into space on Monday, including the nation's first female space traveler Liu Yang. The Shenzhou 9 shuttle was set to dock with Chinese space station Tiangong 1 and Reuters reports the mission went smoothly, marking China's first successful human transfer between two orbiting spacecraft.

"This is an important leap for China's manned space program," Wu Bangguo, a Chinese legislator, told The New York Times.

The recent journey is not the first time China has sent people into space, but it is the first in a few years. The Times reports the first Chinese astronaut to leave Earth's atmosphere did so in 2003, and 2008 marked the first spacewalk in 2008. This was also the last time the country sent anyone into space until earlier this week.

Liu Yang, along with Liu Wang and Jing Haipeng, boarded the Tiangong 1 module, where they will spend the next 13 days before returning to Earth, according to Reuters. This mission is intended to be a practice run for future manned trips to the spacecraft, and its success is a good sign for the future of China's space program.

Those who want to find out more about the mission can make calls to China with international phone cards.

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